The original Mobile Suit Gundam is very much of a big deal in Japan. Its enduring cultural impact has defined the last four decades of anime. So to go back and breathe life into that world again would be no trivial matter.
On paper, going back to an episode of the original Mobile Suit Gundam series that was effectively struck off the record due to its appalling animation is not the most logical starting point for a new movie.
However, over the years, it became clear that the episode called Cucuruz Doan’s Island had somewhat of a following. Something that was fuelled further when the Gundam: The Origin MSD manga covered that said episode in more detail.
While that manga isn’t what has been adapted here, it was definitely one of the inspirations for this movie, as was the original episode from the anime series.
Set early on in the Mobile Suit Gundam narrative, the White Base and her crew are sent to investigate a mysterious island that seems to be guarded by a uniquely powerful and equally mysterious force.
It’s clearance is necessary for the Federation fleet to progress, so Amuro, Kai and Hayato are dispatched to investigate. What they find is a lone Zaku II protecting the island and in an initial skirmish with the Gundam, Amuro is knocked out and left behind by his White Base comrades.
The pilot of the Zaku II is a Zeon deserter called Cucuruz Doan, who is now a makeshift father figure for a gang of children on the island. While Amuro is initially unwelcomed with the children, his prowess as a mechanic wins them over, as he fixes their water supply among other things.
Amuro obviously tries to find his lost Gundam, but to no avail. That is until Doan’s former Southern Cross Corps teammates arrive on the island to unlock its true secrets.
On top of this M’Quve has a very dangerous trick up his sleeve, so a lot is riding on whether Amuro can find the Gundam and if Doan is the savior his children believe him to be.
Considering that it’s been forty years since moviegoers in Japan saw the classic cast of Gundam on the big screen, this movie had a lot to live up to but it seems it has very much hit home with fans and families alike.
This is because Cucuruz Doan’s Island offers something that Gundam has lacked for a long time, warmth and genuinely human characterization.
While Yoshiyuki Tomino is certainly the mind behind Gundam, Yoshikazu Yasuhiko is Gundam’s heart and soul.
For instance, the gang of kids helps humanize the conflict and show that Doan left Zeon to protect and care for them.
This movie also reminded me of one of Yasuhiko’s other anime works, that of Giant Gorg. Again, dealing with conflict on an island with children at the center of it all, Cucuruz Doan’s Island captures that same warmth that made Giant Gorg and the original Gundam so appealing.
The animation is also pretty spectacular throughout, with the mecha combat being rather impressive.
The previous Gundam: The Origin entries were more of a historical affair, that filled in the blanks from the original series, including much of its backstory. This movie is something different though, as it’s a retelling of a story from the original Mobile Suit Gundam series.
In that regard it is both something standalone but also part of something larger. Not to mention bringing back a sense of humanity to Gundam, and that is no mean feat at all.
Gundam: Cucuruz Doan’s Island is currently showing in Japanese theaters. There is currently no news of a Western release.
Disclosure: I paid to see this movie with my own money.
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